I recently asked for help. Help from other chronically ill moms on how to handle this whole sick parenting thing. How can I take care of my kids on the days I can barely take care of myself? I got a lot of wonderful suggestions and feedback. Here are some tips from some real life sick moms on how to manage your self-care so you can care for those kiddos, too!
1. Accept your reality and set realistic expectations
Easier said than done, I know. But accepting that your illness comes with all sorts of complications is necessary and will make you much happier in the long run. Your life may not be playing out as planned but you can still find happiness. It just might look a little different than you expected. Accept that you may not be able to do all the things you want, and give yourself a break! Have realistic expectations about what you can accomplish. Always pictured yourself an active mom who ran around with kids? Well sitting and playing Lego and reading stories is great too!
2. Stop comparing
Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t put too much stock in other people’s perceptions of you. It does you no good. The only life you can live is your own. All that matters is that you show up every day and try to make the best of the hand you have been dealt. Don’t worry about what others think because they don’t know your story!
3. Advocate for yourself and set boundaries
Speak up! Tell your friends and family what you need and when you need to take a break. Don’t assume they know; be honest and tell them. Tell them if you need a rest, tell them if you’re feeling overwhelmed or over-scheduled. You may not be able to do all the things you want. It’s OK to give a simple “No thank you. I can’t make it.”
4. Check in with yourself
No, you’re not being selfish by ensuring that your needs are met. Take care of yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the tasks of the day and, in taking care of everyone else, forget to take care of yourself. Check in! Set an alarm or reminder in your phone if you need to. But check in with yourself multiple times throughout the day. Pause and ask yourself questions like “Have I taken my meds? How’s my diet been today? How am I feeling? What do I need?”
5. Live with intention
Decide to live a healthy, meaningful life and seek out ways to do it. Find the good in every day. No matter how small it seems, take stock of all the little things that make you happy. Great cup of tea? Excellent. Beautiful sunset? Perfect. Focus on the goodinstead of the bad. Focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong. Focus on the things you can do instead of the things you can’t. Set an intention and hold yourself to it. When you feel your thoughts shifting away, remind yourself of your intention to find the good.
6. Accept help
Having a chronic illness means you may need to accept a bit more help than you would like. I get that it’s not ideal. You don’t want to take advantage or be a burden. But no one can do it all by themselves. So accept help when it’s offered to you. When asked “what can we do to help?” give your friends and family concrete suggestions. Seek out ways to take things off your plate. Accept help graciously, be grateful and pay it forward in whatever way you can.
7. Embrace the bad days
Bad days are part of life, and even more so when you are chronically ill. Whether you are physically down or feeling sad, angry and grief-stricken, face it and accept it. Your feelings are valid. You don’t need to be on point all the time. Let it wash over you, make the best of the day, get back up and try again tomorrow.
8. Create a support group
You are not alone! Everyone’s support group will look different. For some, it may happen organically in the form of a large family, helpful neighbors and nearby friends. If that’s not you, no worries! You may to put a little more effort in, but you can still create a network of supportive people. Ask your doctor or therapist about groups you can join. Get online and search for support groups in your area. I get this may be out of your comfort zone, it was for me! I’m so glad that I joined the Amyloidosis Support Groups. I have learned so much. We share our troubles, but also successes, promising new treatments, and tips and tricks for dealing with symptoms and side effects.
9. Pace yourself
It’s easy to get carried away and push yourself too far on the good days. You want to make up for lost time so you go, go, go and then crash. Pushing yourself too far only leads to flare-ups and more down days. So pace yourself, and remember to check in throughout the day to ensure you’re meeting your needs.
10. Be kind – to yourself
Speak nicely to yourself and forgive your limitations. Take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem to you. Whenever possible, focus your energy on the good!